- Chaos hit the Tour de France Friday when extreme weather caused a landslide and forced organizers to stop the race, on one of the most exciting days of the three-week race.
- Confusion spread through the peloton as the riders didn’t immediately know what was happening or whether they should keep racing.
- Images showed a mudslide blocking the road just ahead of the leading riders.
- Colombian sensation Egan Bernal became the new race leader after distancing himself from Julian Alaphilippe of France.
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The Tour de France saw one of its wildest days Friday when organizers suddenly stopped stage 19 after extreme weather brought about a freak hailstorm and a landslide that ruined the road just ahead of the fast-charging riders.
Tweets showed images of the dangerous conditions, including this mudslide:
They also showed people running from the landslide:
— TV 2 Sporten (@2sporten) July 26, 2019
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme drove up to the leaders to tell them the race was being stopped:
Back in the peloton, riders appeared to be confused and even arguing with one another on the road:
The halting of the race was especially dramatic as the battle for the leader’s yellow jersey was heating up with the Colombian sensation Egan Bernal of Team Ineos attacking his rivals on the long climb of the Col de L’Iseran, where the 22-year-old managed to distance himself from Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), who had started the day in yellow.
After learning of the extreme conditions ahead of the race, the organizers neutralized the stage as Bernal was descending the Iseran.
He was in the lead when the racing stopped, and with the time he had in hand he became the new leader of the Tour.
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The organizers said there would be no stage winner and that each rider’s time atop the Iseran would apply as their official stage finishing time.
There are just two stages to go before the race’s conclusion in Paris on Sunday.
Alaphilippe is now in second, 48 seconds down on Bernal. Defending Tour champion Geraint Thomas, also of Team Ineos, is 1 minute 16 seconds back, in third.
Bernal will wear yellow as the leader on Saturday’s stage 20, another major mountain stage that could also see bad weather.
Riders reflect on wild day
There were no reports of injuries. Three-time world road champion Peter Sagan praised the organizers for stopping the race given the dangerous conditions.
“It’s been a different race than what people expected and we have a new leader,” Sagan said. “There was no reason for us to risk our lives under the rain, the hail and with so much mud on the road.
“We already had a thunderstorm yesterday at the end of the race. Today it was going to be even worse conditions. Organisers have done their best. I’m not here to judge.”
“To be honest, I didn’t know what was happening,” Bernal said. “I’ve been told in the radio that the race was finished and I said, ‘No, I want to keep going’. There were talking to me in English and I was not sure. Only after I stopped and my director told me that I was in yellow, I felt relieved.”
If Bernal hangs on to his lead Saturday, he’ll become the first Colombian winner of the Tour de France.
“It’s incredible. I can’t believe it. I want to ride full gas tomorrow and then arrive to Paris and once I cross the line, I’ll start believing this is true. There’s one hard stage remaining. It’s a short one. I’ll give it all on the road.
“To become the first Colombian winner of the Tour de France would be amazing.”